Spessart: Forest, poverty and thieves


Beautiful beech forests: Spessart

Beautiful beech forests: Spessart

Forest, poverty and thieves

The Spessart in the Mainviereck (Main-square) comprises the largest contiguous area of mixed deciduous forests in Germany. It lies between Rhön, Vogelsberg and Odenwald about 55 km east of Frankfurt and 40 km west of Würzburg. The highest mountain is the Geiersberg with 586 meters. In the year 839 it is mentioned for the first time – as Spehteshart, meaning something like “Spechtswald” (woodpecker forest). At that time it was an imperial forest and was used for hunting. In the following centuries the archbishops of Mainz owned the forest. They did not allow settlement until the 12th century. Later several lords of the manor shared the dominion, which favoured the emergence of bands of robbers and thieves. Documented are the Spessart robbers at the beginning of the 19th century. They were immortalized in 1827 by Wilhelm Hauff's story “Das Wirtshaus im Spessart” and in 1958 by Kurt Hoffmann's film of the same name. Until today the triad forest, poverty and Spessart robbers has remained in the awareness of the people.

Attractions Spessart


Castles and gardens in the former bishop's residence

The town in Lower Franconia lies at the confluence of the Main and Aschaff rivers in the very west of the Spessart region. The old town is dominated by an imposing Renaissance building, the red sandstone facades of which are reflected in the River Main. Originally, Johannisburg Castle was the seat of the electors of Mainz. Together with the collegiate church and the Main bridge, which was an important customs station in the Middle Ages, it forms a listed ensemble that covers most of the old town.

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Snow White and a half-timbered town on the Main

Magnificent half-timbered buildings characterize the image of the Old Town on the Main. The nucleus of the city was the church of St. Michael. Together with the surrounding buildings, the church was fortified in the early Middle Ages, which can still be seen today in the walled-in area and the small gate to Kapuzinergasse. The Kurmainzer castle with its four towers was built in 1340 by Count of Rieneck and later provided with ditch and wall, both of which are still well preserved. The people of Lohr claim that Snow White was born in the castle. In any case, it has been housing the Spessart Museum since 1972.

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Former hunting grounds at the foot of the Hochspessart

Between orchards and wooded slopes lies this small village on the western edge of the Hochspessart. From the 10th century onwards, the town on the Aschaff River was under control of the Mainz Electors, who used the area primarily for hunting. From 1350 there was a forestry office in Waldaschaff, pronounced “Wallooscheff” by its inhabitants, with which the lords from Mainz wanted to secure their rule. Today the municipality has almost 4000 inhabitants.

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